Still far apart, but closer than ever
I am the youngest of five children, all of us now grown up, with siblings and nieces/nephews strewn widely around the world--Washington state, Minnesota, New York, Utah, Virginia, and Australia. My family has always had a very tight and loving base, but we might go for weeks or months without talking to each other sometimes, just part of the way we are. This year, one of my nieces who lives in New York City caught COVID-19 in March. She was in her early 30s and at the time NYC was spiking with cases so we were really scared for her. Her health held out okay, although she suffered significant effects--memory loss, severe fatigue, the loss of her senses of taste and smell... We were all in closer touch during spring as we tried to keep up with her progress, and in June she set up the first family Zoom session, arranged at a time that we could all be there, with time zones reaching the opposite side of the planet. As the many challenges and burdens of the global pandemic continued to march across the United States and the entire world, we continued to have these zoom meetings every week. It felt very reassuring to see the faces and hear the voices of my family during the emotionally difficult times, as we marked the birthdays, graduations, lockdowns, and the death of my sister-in-law from health issues not related to COVID-19. Even if we could not be together face to face in person, being together online was a great help to all of us. We settled in to a comfortable mode where we might not join every single week, but we never missed it for long, and during each session we would all be seen in our normal home circumstances--some of us preparing or eating Sunday dinner here on the East coast, while my sister in Australia would just be waking up to her Monday morning. We continue to hold our weekly sessions, and it has been a welcome change to my life--despite still being just as far apart as we have always been, because of our weekly gatherings online, we are all closer to each other than we have ever been before. It has become something we have all noticed and appreciate, and I think we will continue the sessions even after a vaccine has helped us reach a "new normal." But simultaneously, there is no question--we are all VERY eager to get together in person again as soon as possible for a big reunion, with tons of hugs and lots of time just sitting together face to face. And my niece has joined the new category of COVID-19 “long haulers” as she continues to suffer from greatly reduced taste and smell capabilities. Fortunately, she is otherwise doing well, and most importantly she is still here with us telling stories and hearing updates on our lives every week.